Study foresees more wrecks after big ore trucks begin to roll in 2024
Analysis shows 10 more wrecks annually over 240-mile corridor from Tetlin gold mine to Kinross Fort Knox mill
A new study predicts accidents will increase next year when big trucks begin hauling gold ore 240 miles from a mine in Tetlin to Kinross’s Fort Knox mill. That’s one of many findings reviewed Tuesday by a state Transportation Department committee analyzing the trucking route.
Engineer Randy Kinney told members of DOT’s Transportation Advisory Committee that a predictive safety analysis he conducted shows that once the 95-foot-long double trailers begin to roll next year, the number of wrecks along the corridor will increase by about 4 percent annually, from 240 to 250. But he says that’s only an estimate, because there’s not a lot of data available on the big rigs he calls “B-Trains”.
“The effects of tractor-trailers or B-Trains are not well understood or modeled at this point, either,” said Kinney, a project manager and engineering lead for the safety analysis. The study is part of a corridor action plan of the impact of trucking on the corridor.
Kinney says he adjusted available data on conventional 40-ton tractor trailers to come up with estimates on how the B-Trains, which weigh twice as much, would affect roadway safety.
But, he added, “There are limitations to this predictive method.”
That troubles Transportation Advisory Committee member Dave Waldo of Fairbanks. He’s a retired DOT planner and a member of Advocates of Safe Alaska Highways, or ASAH, a group that opposes the Kinross trucking plan.
“So, to me, that proves those numbers could be even higher,” he said in an interview Tuesday, after the meeting that he attended.
Barbara Schuhmann, a retired attorney and spokesperson for ASAH, agrees.
“I predict that it’s going to be a lot more,” she said Tuesday.
Schuhmann says the lack of information about B-Trains, also known as long combination vehicles, casts doubt on Kinney’s safety analysis.
“If they have no information, no models, no statistics on large, heavy, long combination vehicles,” she said, “then why are we even trying to do all this modeling and extrapolation?”
Waldo says that lack of data on the big rigs probably partly explains why Kinney didn’t include projections on the severity of crashes that he anticipates will occur over the next six years. He says Kinney’s study assumes some of those additional crashes would be caused simply by the 1 percent annual increase in overall traffic on the route.
“He’s not saying that they’re going to involve the trucks,” Waldo said. “He’s just saying the model changed once you add these 120 trucks.”
Kinross proposes to run an average of 120 trucks daily over the route, which passes through Tok, Dot Lake, Delta Junction, Salcha, North Pole and Fairbanks.
Schuhmann says all the information that was jam-packed into Tuesday’s three-hour meeting left little time for public comment. She hopes there will be more opportunities for feedback in future committee meetings, and more frequent meetings. The next is scheduled for mid-July.